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Can An Average Viewer Do Something Besides Staying Mad At Indian News Channels?

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We have all cringed at clickbait headlines and their cheap lure, debate rooms that were called in to prove the notions of the moderator themselves and the false sense of urgency for the sake of news coverage; we all have hated the Indian News Media in recent times.

In recent times, when we needed more and more news channels to cover farmers’ strikes for how unfair the recent farm bills have been to the majority of them, slitting their bellies with a hot knife, the record rise in new Covid-19 cases across the country, the rash of the climate change in India that has pushed the monsoons in India by months, the lack of accountability of the government for providing numbers on the migrant crisis during the lockdown (possibly the biggest humanitarian crisis that India has faced) and the doctors who have lost their lives fighting to save others’ lives and the agony of students who are or have appeared for the NEET and JEE exams.

While there are more than a few suicides that get reported every day — of a farmer who’s not being able to make ends meet, a migrant who’s on a lookout for another job, a student who has been kicked out of the education system overnight — most Indian news media channels are only concerned about one suicide, and one suicide alone.

This isn’t fair. Like many of you, my blood too is boiling, seeing the media not doing its job of putting the state of matters to the table. Instead, they are curating for us news, the basis of which is the number of clicks they get. While there are many independent journalists and a few news media houses who are doing their job and acting in good faith of the nation — and more and more people are gravitating towards them with each passing day — a majority of the population is falling to the media’s rat-trap.

What are we going to do about it? A small step towards a balanced news media ecosystem would be for us to encourage independent journalists and newsrooms that aren’t funded by a corporate, and thus, are not obliged to cater to a side. We must also encourage rural journalism platforms, for example, Gaon Connection and PARI, by contributing to them. These platforms are blowing the whistle on fake news and making sure that people around us have access to important and unbiased news. Last but not the least, we must also be mindful of our consumption of any sort of information.

In an attempt to figure out media’s biases and how it can provide a more ‘centrist’ perspective, I came across the website of Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR). Based in New York, it’s a national progressive media watchdog group that challenges corporate media’s biases, spins and misinformation. The organisation works to invigorate the First Amendment of the US Constitution by advocating for greater diversity in the press and scrutinising media practices that marginalise public interest, and minority and dissenting viewpoints.

As I read about FAIR and searched on and on, I could not get find even a single source like this for a country such as India, where minority communities face the worst heat during tectonic shifts such as the lockdown, economic shifts such as demonetisation and a policy change that puts the working class in jeopardy.

The World Economic Forum reported Indian media to be the second most corrupt media in the Edelman Report, 2017. The survey showed that the faith in media was at an all-time low, and the credibility and motive of these institutions have been seriously doubted. The following were the report’s main findings:

Representational image.

“The emergence of social media was the main reason the hypocrisy of the media got exposed. It got exposed that the people who call themselves journalists had turned into working for money and were driven by vested interests. The majority of people have expressed displeasure over the media reports. The report said that the people expect the media to reflect the opinion and voice of the unheard. Still, people feel that they cannot trust the media content anymore as most of them have found it to be driven by vested interest and aimed to exploit the situation for gaining TRPs. The report said that overall there had been a “global implosion” in trust – a total trust deficit. A total of 28 countries were surveyed, out of which 17 countries expressed their mistrust on the media, Indian media was seen as the second most corrupt. It is not a surprise, given that Indian journalists have used silly issues and blown it out of proportion to create panic among people. Several issues have been scripted by media and presented as news and facts. These have aggravated the society, the common man. Indian media has also been building a narrative against the country by showing anti-national characters in a positive light and anti-national thought currents as the best way to think. The media would create fake issues, and start jumping over these fake stories, attempting to create an uproar in the society.”

As we move towards a world that is parting and coming together in ways more than one, the news media has a vital role to play as an enabler, and not as a storyteller weighting more on one side. While we cannot start pulling the puppet strings of the clickbait news channels as we please, we can do a few things to bring the power of public opinion and dissent back to the democracy. Start following news from both the left and right ideologies — i.e. people you agree with and people you don’t. News isn’t supposed to be juicy or agreeable; it is supposed to tell of the issues concerning the citizens of the country.

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  1. Shobha Kalyanaswamy

    Well, I am certainly upset at the Indian media but not all for reasons you mentioned. I dislike the negativity of the Indian media. I have friends who are related to farmers and the Farmers protest was all started by the opposition – everyone knows that this will benefit farmers in the long run when there are no middle men. As for increasing Covid cases in India, do people realize that India has a population of the US and Europe combined? Have we seen our recovery rates and looked at Active cases alone? We are doing really well on that front though even one death is one too many. Lets be balanced in our outlook and showcase both positive and negative that’s happening in India, and not just negatives which amounts to lopsided reporting. I do agree that Media in India blows things out of proportion and we never get to see the positive and good news which exists too.

    1. Megha Sharma

      The good news and bad news both exist. My problem does not lie with the unbalanced reportage of the good news (which I champion for regardless) but the sensationalisation of news, misinformation in news. News media by its function has a role to make people aware and inform in the light of a national health emergency. For the covid cases in India, I agree media can’t do much about helping the wild spread of the virus, but India media is accountable for the number it fudges, or when it chooses to not report in prime time, and holds a bias and act on it by showing something less significant to the citizen.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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